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Why I Quit All Facebook-Owned Apps — Part One

I left Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp last summer. This article was originally written to explain my choice, due to the recent events in the United States I feel like it might help understand how social media can influence us IRL.

Oh, to be a conscious consumer…

To me being aware of your use and consumption of technology could be compared to digital vegetarianism and veganism. People think you’re a snob for being concerned about the future.

I try to live with my time and understand the problems of our generation. I really believe data privacy is important but so are the long-term effects of technology/social media on our brains/societies. I deeply believe it is my duty to stay informed and be consistent with my thoughts on privacy issues and the political role of technology, as a person but especially as a designer. We need to be conscious of the world we are building. There is something scary about being so comfortable with the way things are that you resist any type of change. We should question our behavior, habits, and thought process often to assess the direction things are taking.

So that you understand where I’m coming from with these posts: I am not anti-social network. I have used Facebook since 2009, Instagram, WhatsApp since around 2012 and I love to try new platforms all the time. But what I don’t like is one company having a monopoly on my data, using this data for profit, and harvesting discord. I understand that technology and social media have positive aspects, but also recognize the negative ones.

In short: do I really need Facebook to stay in contact with the people I care about and love? No, I don’t. Would I rather use other products that protect my data and don’t manipulate me and my friends? Hell, yes! Because I want to be able to use the amazing thing that is the internet without giving up my right to privacy.

There is something scary about being so comfortable with the way things are that you resist any type of change, for better or worst. I think we should question our behaviour, habits and thought process often to assess the direction things are taking.

In this series of articles, I’d like you to ask yourself if you think Facebook is sustainable? What does the world look like if it keeps on going like this? Can’t we hold abusive companies accountable for their actions and demand more ethical technology and data use?

I’d like to close this introduction by saying that I am not an expert and the issues I am about to touch on in this series are complex and vast. I won’t pretend to know the full extent of it, but I’ll try to give you the resources to understand why I believe it’s worth leaving Facebook services behind.

1 — It’s about privacy and security

Michael Scott from the TV Show The Office screaming with the caption “I DECLARE PRIVACY”

Who cares about privacy? I’ve got nothing to hide anyway.

It’s sometimes difficult for people to understand why online privacy matters, I love how Norton decided to put it:

“Privacy is closing your bedroom curtains when getting ready for bed. Privacy is visiting with your doctor behind closed doors. While in real life this type of privacy comes naturally, with little thought, in the digital space the idea of privacy is skewed. Mostly because people don’t really understand what digital privacy entails.”

Privacy is the right to not be monitored online and keeping your private life private. To give you an idea of how Facebook monitors its users: the Facebook website will collect info on where you log in from, the groups you join, who you talk to. The app knows the Wi-Fi networks you connect to, the model of phone you use, other apps you have installed...etc you also feed Facebook with whatever information you give into the network. Instagram and WhatsApp are integrated into the Facebook companies and participate in complementary data collection that shapes your online profile.

The third-party apps or website that you log in through your Facebook account (also called Off-Facebook Activity) helps build up a more fleshed out profile with getting to know your shopping habits and online activity. All of that information about you is used primarily to make money with targeted ads(we will talk more about it in Part 2) but it also constitutes a security risk.

“Full access to a person’s phone is the next best thing to full access to a person’s mind.”

Eva Galperin

The implications

I’m sure you understand the political interests of collecting data, knowledge is power after all and a lot can be learned about you through mass surveillance tools that social networks are. This knowledge subjects you to serious manipulation. Maybe you think you’re smarter than that, I personally don’t think I’m immune to mass propaganda and influence so I’d rather limit my exposure to potential channels.

You’ve probably already heard all about the Snowden leaks and The Cambridge Analytica scandal. But if you haven’t, I recommend reading about it as these two events have been crucial revelations about data collection and mass surveillance by big companies and governments. They will be important in Part 2 of this series.

“Facebook makes their money by exploiting and selling intimate details about the private lives of millions, far beyond the scant details you voluntarily post. They are not victims. They are accomplices. Businesses that make money by collecting and selling detailed records of private lives were once plainly described as ‘surveillance companies’. Their rebranding as ‘social media’ is the most successful deception since the Department of War became the Department of Defense.”

Edward Snowden

A concrete example

As you know, WhatsApp has been bought by Facebook in 2014 and its recent update of Terms of Use and Privacy Policy has made a number of people realize the two products weren’t as independent from one another as they thought. The only way to object to sharing your personal data with Facebook? Leave WhatsApp. Now, if that doesn’t sound like an aggressive invasion of privacy to you, I don’t know what does!

Since the updated WhatsApp Terms & Conditions have been published, users have expressed concerns. Richest man in the world Elon Musk has called people to switch to Signal: a privacy-focused messaging app co-founded by Brian Acton (co-founder of WhatsApp) who’s been vocal about being skeptical about Facebook sticking to encryption since he left the company in 2017.

This boosted the messaging app that has now seen its downloads go up to the top on the App Store charts in Austria, France, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Switzerland but also India.

What is interesting is that India used to be WhatsApp‘s largest market, maybe the 2019 “WhatsApp electionhave opened eyes about misinformation spreading within closed networks. But this will be discussed more in Part 2 of Why I quit all Facebook-owned apps.

Are you considering quitting Facebook services? What keeps you there? Are you concerned about privacy issues or not at all?

Tell me your story in the comments; find me on Twitter @D_Brunetiere or connect with me on LinkedIn. Let’s talk!

Want to learn more about data collection and privacy?

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Delphine Brunetière

Delphine Brunetière

Product Designer (she/her) - creator of Devotion zine

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